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One of the questions that I get from people when I teach about the environment, particularly about the national parks, is “which of the following is not an emphasis of the 1990 national environmental education act?” The Act established the National Environmental Education Act as a requirement for all schools to teach a “balanced” part of earth’s history and earth’s environment. But what are balanced parts? The phrase “balanced” was used to distinguish the education that the National Park Service would impose on a public park, versus other similar agencies or organizations that might impose less stringent standards.
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The National Environmental Education Act also required that all teachers in public schools teach “with an eye to” first learning about the” ecology, human health, and environment.” The National Education Act also contained a provision that said “no principal may prohibit any activity which may be detrimental to the environment or which may interfere with the operation of the visitor facilities.”
But the question of “what is the lack of national emphasis on what the 1990 national education act said?” goes beyond the question of what is not emphasized in the education act. It also goes to the question of what was emphasized. Because the National Education Act specified that education should be taught “with an eye to” first learning about” ecology, human health, and the environment,” it is not surprising that the environment section was left out.
Environmental education was hardly mentioned at all in the first two years of the Bill Clinton administration. The reason was that “ecology” was a term whose meaning had changed during the Clinton administration. For example, “ecology” used to mean the study of the relationship between humans and nature. Environmental education had been pushed on and off during the Clinton years.
The first attempt to include a national environmental education act in the federal government’s strategic environmental planning was defeated. The second attempt made much more sense. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “the purpose of this Act is to provide a national framework for Federal action to achieve an objective which shall be the protection of public health and the environment.” The EPA further explained that its purpose was to “establish procedures for regulating compliance by State and local governments.”
That may have been the intent of the 1990 national environmental education act. However, the failure of those attempts to bring the issue of environmental education to the forefront of education policy proves that such an endeavor does not have the support of the American people. As has been shown over the last decade, most citizens are either indifferent to, or totally oblivious of the serious problems our environment is facing. Pollution is at an all-time high and the effects of such pollution on human health and the ecosystem are severe.
To say that the 1990 national environmental education act sought to “establish procedures for regulating compliance by State and local governments,” clearly shows that what the law sought to do was to establish a set of guidelines for environmental assessment. There is no requirement that those guidelines be adhered to. They can be ignored or simply ignored. Still, that would not be accurate as the purpose of environmental assessment is to provide scientific information that allows decision-makers to make informed decisions. Without adequate scientific data concerning environmental issues, those decision-makers cannot make informed decisions.
Unfortunately, despite the lack of support for stricter environmental laws, some areas of the country are trying to take action. For example, cities like Seattle and Portland have long struggled with issues related to environmental assessment and enforcement of those laws. These two metropolitan areas rank near the top of the list for the growth of green homes in the nation. While the reasons for this growth are varied, what is not a focus of the 1990 national environmental act is the increase of green home construction.
Clearly, the lack of support for stricter environmental laws does not extend to the issue of which is not an emphasis of the 1990 national environmental act. It only provides information on the importance of environmental assessments, how they should be enforced and how they affect environmental quality of life. At least these laws require education about these matters so that policy makers and citizens understand the need for such regulations. They also provide the necessary information so that citizens can make informed decisions regarding the environment. Those who support stronger environmental laws obviously feel that such regulations are important and that they promote a healthy environment.
This article is provided by Honduras Educational. Thank you for reading
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